British Telecom has apologised to Buckingham Palace for a ‘tasteless and
inappropriate’ press release distributed by PR agency Lynne Franks.
The controversial release promotes BT’s EasyReach pager as ‘the most
discreet way of conducting an affair without anyone finding out’ and
cites royal adulterers who had been caught out by traditional telecoms.
It says: ‘First there was the Squidgygate tapes, then came the notorious
Camillagate and Fergiegate affairs. Now with Prince Philip caught on
tape, the issue of how you can have a discreet affair without getting
caught looms large’.
The release goes on to list suggestive messages lovers could exchange
and advises that the pager’s 90 character capacity gives ‘enough space
to leave details of a secret rendezvous’.
Peter Kinsella, British Telecom’s head of newsroom, said Lynne Franks
issued the release without following the company’s normal clearance
procedure. BT first saw the release when it was faxed a copy by
Buckingham Palace’s press office.
The release generated a confidential memo from BT corporate relations
director Ian Ash to chairman Sir Iain Vallance and chief executive Sir
Peter Bonfield. In the memo, headed ‘Potential PR problem’, Ash advises
them that an agency had ‘issued a tasteless and inappropriate press
release in BT’s name without following the approvals process’.
British Telecom later sent a letter of apology to Buckingham Palace.
Kinsella said Lynne Franks was working on the EasyReach campaign as part
of its wider brief for the youth market. He would not comment on whether
BT would retain the agency for the pager business.
‘We are talking to Lynne Franks about this matter and we will resolve it
with them. They are still working with us on the EasyReach campaign and
they are obviously concerned about what happened.’
Lynne Franks won the BT youth contract, thought to be worth a six-figure
sum, in a pitch last spring. The agency did not return PR Week’s calls
on the issue.